Nailing a draft pick can set an NFL team up for years. If, after all the scouting, the game tape, the combine, the sleepless nights and nail-biting draft days you make the right selection, your team can be propelled into contention for years.
With less than 50 days to go before the 2014 NFL Draft, it’s a good time to look back at history. With that in mind, I’ve assembled the list of the 50 greatest selections in San Francisco 49ers history. It’s a look back and a celebration of the wisest of the wise decisions made on draft day.
First, a note on methodology. To get the basis for the list, I looked at all 14,000+ draft selections made since the NFL went to a common draft in 1967. Using Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value stat, I calculated the expected value of each draft slot, and then compared it to the AV of each San Francisco draft pick. Finally, I adjusted active players, due to the fact that they have years of production remaining.
Draft position is important—a pro bowler picked in the sixth round is harder to find than one in the first round—but not exclusively so. After all, a Hall of Fame player is a Hall of Fame player, no matter if they’re taken with the first pick in the draft or the last.
Finally, I’m only looking at players picked in 2010 or earlier. It’s early enough that a player like Colin Kaepernick could still regress to the mean, or Taylor Mays could rebound.
With no further ado, here are the 50 greatest draft picks in San Francisco history.